A cleft palate is a birth defect that causes the roof of the mouth to improperly form. The cleft or gap can affect the growth of the muscles near the rear of the mouth, which can lead to speech difficulties and trouble swallowing. Severe cleft palates are usually treated in infancy, but less prominent palates might be left for a variety of reasons.
Cleft palates can sometimes be joined by oligodontia, a condition that involves at least six congenitally missing teeth. If you or a child has a combination of these problems, there is a multi-step treatment plan that your dentist can create to improve your comfort and the appearance of your smile.
The first step to the process will likely be a bone graft performed to fill in the gap formed by the cleft palate. The donor bone can come from within your jaw or hip or from a synthetic or bovine outside source.
Your dentist will cut open the soft tissue in the roof of your mouth and insert the donor bone in the gap. The soft tissue will be stitched closed around the donor bone to keep everything in place while the original and donor bone heal together. If you lack enough soft tissue to cover the new bone, your dentist might need to perform a soft tissue graft at the same time.
Once the bone sections have successfully fused, your dentist can continue your treatment process.
Oral Surgery and Braces
Cleft palate and numerous missing teeth can both cause the jawbone to grow improperly. The jaw can become out of position in relation to the opposite jaw, which can cause discomfort and moderate to severe bite issues. Jaw misalignment can't be treated with braces, so you will need to visit an oral surgeon's office.
The oral surgeon will either cut out a segment of the jaw to shift it backwards or to the sides or insert a segment of donor bone to move the jaw forward, depending on the nature of your problem. The shifted jaw will need to undergo a healing process similar to that found in cleft palate bone grafts. Once the bone has healed, you can move on to having any remaining teeth misalignment fixed.
Orthodontic treatment is trickier when there are multiple missing teeth because all of those gaps provide incorrect landing spaces for the shifting teeth. Your dentist will need to insert small micro-implant roots into the jawbone in the vacant spaces to prevent other teeth from taking those spots. Once the orthodontic treatment is complete, the small implants can be removed.
Dental implants are often used as a dental replacement because the metal root is stabilized by jawbone to provide comfortable chewing. Single dental implants are costly and likely not the best option when you're missing six or more teeth. But implant-supported dentures can provide similar stability while covering more ground in teeth replacement.
Replacing six or more teeth will likely involve the usage of partial dentures, which have the same type of rigid plate found on the full-size dentures, but leave empty spaces for natural teeth to poke through. The natural teeth help the dental implant roots hold the plate in place so that the dentist can use fewer implant roots to hold the plate in place. Contact a dentist--such as one from Bayside Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Centre--for more information.